Young earth creationism (YEC) is the (religious) belief that the Universe, including the Earth, and all life on Earth were created by the supernatural intervention down to every last detail by God sometime between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.

I’ve never made a study of YEC. I simply never came across it in my formative years. However, over the past several decades many evangelical Christians have embraced young earth creationism (YEC). Key to this understanding is the literal interpretation of the Genesis chapter 1, viz God created the Earth in six 24-hour days.

The kind of understanding that I grew up with (as a Sydney Diocese Anglican) was grey:

  • Adam and Eve – yes;
  • very old world – yes;
  • evolution – yes, but guided by God at key points;
  • flood, universal or local? – never particularly considered;
  • the 6 days of Genesis 1, 24 hour or figurative? – not 24 hour, either long periods of time or big gaps between days or some combination.

But actually the subject of the precise chronology/history of creation was not a big issue, enough that God created and was delighted with his creation. The big issue was (and remains!) the human condition and God’s remedy in the Gospel (the double grace of justification and regeneration/sanctification) with which we needed to get busy.

Well, in the past 20, 30 or more years, following the 1961 publication of The Genesis Flood by Morris and Whitcomb (a book which I never heard about until years later), a number of organisations committed to the YEC position have arisen – undertaking research, critiquing evolution and old earth dating, and generally producing attractive educational material in support of their position. The YEC organisations that I’m aware of are Answers in Genesis, Creation Ministries International, the Institute for Creation Research, and Creation Research Society. I hasten to add that my knowledge of any of them is strictly minimal.

I must say that I’m incredulous that people seriously consider the earth to be so young given current knowledge of geology, cosmology, etc. However I heard Dr Eugenie Scott of the US National Center for Science Education and leading YEC critic at the Global Atheist Convention, April 2012 in Melbourne applaud YEC scientists for seeking scientific validation for their position.

I also applaud such endeavours and wish them success (though remaining deeply sceptical of them ever achieving success) because there is at least a tacit understanding that God’s book of revelation – the Bible and God’s book of nature cannot tell two different stories.

For myself I am an undogmatic old earth creationist willing to accede some ground to evolution at the micro level. I’m undogmatic because a) I don’t believe Genesis 1 has to be read as mandating six 24 hour days – I think those arguing so have not given due consideration to how God has had to accommodated himself to us in His Word, i.e. the interpretation of Genesis 1 is arguable; b) whilst guided Darwinian evolution is possible, I think the science will become more complex and less able to support the evolution paradigm, whilst philosophically there are serious issues that cast long shadows over the theory must contend with; and c) God’s two books, the Bible and Nature need to be aligned because we are dealing with the one reality, in the meantime the word.

I am concerned about what I consider to be the over reach of some (most?) creationists who view the Bible as mandatory reading on just about any subject you can think of. As a Presbyterian minister, in acknowledging and confessing the Scripture as sufficient for “faith and life” (Westminster Confession of Faith 1.6), doesn’t mean that Scripture is a manual for building a car, washing up at night or undertaking carbon dating of fossils. I note with interest that R Scott Clark of Westminster Seminary, California describes the current promotion of the YEC position as an example of “the quest for illegitimate religious certainty”. I’ve certainly run into people who basically say that if you dont believe the six day 24 hour understanding of Genesis 1 then you’re not really a Christian, well not one of orthodox, evangelical conviction. On such a reading various Reformed worthies of past generations would be excised from orthodoxy.

What I do know is that God made all things according to the purpose of His Will, that He is separate from His creation and not constrained by the rules that govern nature in the normal course of her affairs (hence the miracle of life, the feeding of the 5,000, the resurrection of Jesus, etc), that Adam and Eve were our first parents whose rebellion against God’s command cast all subsequent generations into sin, condemnation and death, unrelieved save for the redeeming work of God in the Lord Jesus Christ. This we can and must defend.

My views are more fully expressed in an article, Ancient of Days published in Australian Presbyterian. Recently I came across Seven Days that divide the World: The beginning according to Genesis and Science by John Lennox which takes a similar line to that of my article – of course in much more detail. There are other books critiquing evolution on my Atheism page that are recommended reading.